We now come to probably the most misunderstood of the four religions I have summarized. Islam. Buddhism I knew about, and I am a Christian so Christan and Jewish beliefs are familiar to me, but I have been particularly interested in the interaction of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam in Spain during the Middle Ages. I am reading a book (http://books.google.com/books?id=iDDhaR9btpcC&printsec=frontcover&dq=the+ornament+of+the+world&source=bl&ots=PV_7HFkJR4&sig=d4wwaOZ2GV0EVn8woWES9cIUOoc&hl=es&ei=MxLSS-7-L8O78gazkbTODw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CBAQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false) called Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain by Maria Rosa Menocal.
Really, it is possible for 3 distinctly different cultures and religions to coexist. What this book has helped me to see is they made a common culture while still maintaining their identities as religious groups. It is quite the read. Check it out!
On to the beliefs!
7 Pillars of Islam
1. Profession of faith (the shahadah): lâ ilâha illallâh, Muḥammadur rasûlullâh "There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God
http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=shahadah&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8 (Want to hear it?)
2. Ritual worship (salah)
5 daily prayers, dawn, midday, afternoon, evening, night, facing East, Mecca (Muhammad's birthplace and Islam's holy city)
Accompanied by action -- raise their hands at "Allahu Akbar" = "God is the greatest," bend with hands on knees, kneel with their hands on their thighs, then bow heads to floor.
3. Fasting during holy month of Ramadan (sawm)
While the sun is up, no eating, drinking, smoking, or sex
4. Giving to charity (zakah)
Unlike Christians who feel led to tithe (10%), this amount is usually 2.5%. It is to help the poor and sick not to support the leaders of the religion. In some countries the government makes sure that their country's Muslims pay this.
5. Hajj -- Pilgrimage to Mecca
If you are capable of visiting Mecca during your lifetime, you should.
Additionally, in Menocal's book I learned about the idea of dhimma/dhimmi. Dhimma was the idea that "people of the book" (that is, Jews or Christians....Muslims do recognize The Torah and the Bible as good books, though the Qu'ran is their "Good Book.) deserved the protection of Muslims....protection as in, letting no harm come to them!
If Christians or Jews lived in a Muslim country, they didn't have as many rights as Muslims, but the Muslims were to protect them. Quite the opposite of what you hear racists spurting.
(I've read the Qu'ran and NOWHERE in it does it say that Muslims are to murder infidels. Extremism exists in many religions, and it is dangerous. But even as dangerous is the idea that because just a few people believe something, to generalize and stereotype a whole lot of people!)
I have not had extensive experiences knowing Muslims but those who I do know are perfectly nice people and not at all what the racist stereotypes of terrorists. That makes me so sad that people can be so ignorant that they completely write off anyone who is different.
I do believe that my beliefs are what is right. That's why I believe them. But